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U.S. House bill would lift armored vehicle restrictions for police

The proposal comes after a Minn. shooting that killed two police officers and a paramedic, where wounded officers were rescued using an armored vehicle purchased in 2008

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U.S. Rep. Angie Craig’s bill would broaden local law enforcement’s ability to buy armored vehicles using federal funding.

New York Times, Star Tribune/TNS

By Sydney Kashiwagi, Briana Bierschbach
Star Tribune

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Angie Craig will unveil a bill Wednesday that would make it easier for local police departments to purchase armored vehicles.

The Minnesota Democrat’s legislation comes on the heels of a shooting earlier this year in Burnsville that killed two police officers and a paramedic responding to a domestic abuse call. It also coincides with National Police Week, when House Republican lawmakers plan to introduce a package of law enforcement related bills.

First responders used an armored vehicle in the standoff to help rescue injured officers. The vehicle sustained 41 shots from a rifle that day while first responders went in to save other officers as well as the two who had been fatally shot and the paramedic, according to Craig’s office.

Craig’s office said the armored vehicle used that day was purchased in 2008 and was the first the state had ever owned.

“Burnsville experienced an unimaginable loss on February 18th — and it’s hard to fathom what more could have happened if first responders did not have access to the equipment and vehicles they needed that day,” Craig said in a statement. “In emergency situations, every second counts, and the very least we can do is ensure local law enforcement has every tool at their disposal to stay safe and keep the community safe.”

Currently, law enforcement agencies that receive federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) cannot purchase armored vehicles unless they certify the vehicles will be used exclusively for one of the following purposes: disaster-related emergencies, hostage and active shooter situations, search and rescue missions or anti-terrorism missions.

Once departments receive armored vehicles using federal funding, they can only be used for the sole purpose they specified, making it illegal for the vehicles to be used for another type of emergency.

Craig’s Protect Local Law Enforcement Act would broaden law enforcement’s ability to buy armored vehicles using federal funding by removing restrictions in a recent executive order from the White House.

Craig’s office worked on the legislation with local law enforcement and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the state’s largest trade association representing more than 10,000 rank-and-file police officers, correctional officers, dispatchers and firefighters.

“Violence in communities — and against those in law enforcement — is increasing and beyond unacceptable,” Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Executive Director Brian Peters said in a statement. “Legislation like this helps to keep our communities and law enforcement more safe.”

Police officers have experienced a surge in assaults over the last decade, most commonly during responses to domestic disturbance calls like the one that precipitated the death of the first responders in Burnsville, according to data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Since 2021, officers have reported at least 3,400 assaults in Minnesota, with a 10% increase last year.

“As we continue to mourn the loss of Adam Finseth, Matthew Ruge and Paul Elmstrand, we can take actions like these to ensure Minnesota’s public safety officers are protected,” Craig said.

Craig is running for re-election this fall and her seat is again targeted by national Republicans hoping to expand their majority in Congress. Crime has been a major issue in several of her races, but Craig’s work on policing issues has helped her secure the endorsement of law enforcement groups such as the MPPOA in the last election cycle. The group has endorsed her again in 2024.

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